Canada, our friendly next-door neighbor, is as vast and varied as the US. Its 13 provinces and territories are home to world-class cities, snow-capped peaks, beach-fringed islands, captivating wildlife and rolling vineyards. If you haven’t visited in a while (or ever), let us inspire you!
Here are six incredible ways to explore Canada—three of them fly-and-drive itineraries and three of them cruises. Plan well ahead for 2023—cruises and accommodations book up very early.
Toronto, Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake. An easy getaway for wine lovers is one that begins and ends in cosmopolitan Toronto, located about 90 minutes by car from the vineyards of Niagara-on-the-Lake. If you are flying in, spend a night in Toronto at either end of your trip to enjoy the 1,815-foot-tall CN Tower and its EdgeWalk, where you can explore the exposed top of the tower in a harness if you dare…historic St. Lawrence Market…and the vibrant Distillery District, where you can whet your whistle at Mill Street Brew Pub and Spirit of York Distillery. The InterContinental Toronto Centre (TorontoCentre.Intercontinental.com) offers easy access to sights and Lake Ontario views.
With a rental car, it’s easy to explore Niagara-on-the-Lake, known for ice wine made from grapes picked after temperatures hit 12°F to 18°F. The region’s 50+ vineyards—including Reif Estate Winery (ReifWinery.com), Peller Estates (Peller.com), Stratus Vineyards (StratusWines.com) and Wayne Gretsky Estates (GretzkyEstatesWines.com)—also produce excellent whites and reds.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a charming Victorian-era town with a flower-lined downtown that’s home to the Prince of Wales Hotel (Vintage-Hotels.com/prince-of-wales). Steeped in nostalgia, it’s a fun place to enjoy crispy fish and chips in the Churchill Lounge before heading out on the entertaining Ghost Walks tour (GhostWalks.com).
As touristy as nearby Niagara Falls is (NiagaraFallsTourism.com), it still is worth overnighting at the Marriott Niagara Falls Fallsview Hotel & Spa for mesmerizing views of the Canadian cascades. Table Rock House Restaurant serves Niagara-inspired cuisine along with close-up views of the falls, while activities include a Journey Behind the Falls elevator ride to a viewing platform at the base of the falls, the Whitewater Walk alongside the Niagara River’s rapids and the “Currents” multimedia light show at the Niagara Falls Power Station. Reserve dining and activities ahead at NiagaraParks.com.
Prince Edward Island and Les Îles de la Madeleine. To feel miles—and decades—away from 2023 while enjoying sandy beaches and lobster rolls, head to these islands in Canada’s Atlantic provinces between May and October. Linked by a ferry, they offer complementary experiences—the compact province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) is a popular family destination and a mecca for fans of the Anne of Green Gables books, movies and TV series, while sparsely populated Les Îles de la Madeleine, aka the Magdalen Islands, belongs to French-speaking Quebec.
Fly to Charlottetown, PEI’s provincial capital, via Montreal and Toronto or drive in through Maine and New Brunswick. The city hosted the 1864 Charlottetown Conference that set in motion the birth of the Canadian Federation, and actors in 19th-century garb enthusiastically re-enact the period. Don’t miss a stroll on Victoria Row, a waterfront lunch at Salt & Sol (SaltAndSolPEI.ca), ice cream (and irresistible chocolate-dipped potato chips) from Cows (Cows.ca) and a stay at The Great George (TheGreatGeorge.com), a hotel made up of a cluster of heritage buildings in Charlottetown’s historic heart.
Away from the city, enjoying PEI’s dune-fringed beaches is easy with a stay at historic Dalvay by the Sea (DalvayByTheSea.com), a late-19th-century inn that also has family-friendly cabins, located within Prince Edward Island National Park. From there, it’s about 40 minutes to lively Cavendish Beach (CavendishBeachPEI.com) and nearby Green Gables Heritage Place (PC.GC.ca/en/lhn-nhs/pe/greengables), home to all things Anne of Green Gables. A great casual spot for lunch or dinner is On the Dock in North Rustico.
It’s a six-hour car-ferry voyage (TraversierCTMA.ca/en) from Souris on PEI across the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the fish-hook–shaped Magdalen Islands. Reservations months in advance are required. You’ll arrive at Cap-aux-Meules, the gateway island where dramatic red cliffs are splashed by sapphire-blue surf, and artisanal delights—including cheese at Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent, cider at Verger Poméloi and smoked meats at Le Fumoir d’Antan—can be enjoyed on the Food Trail. For more refined dining, atmospheric Le Domaine du Vieux Couvent (DomaineDuVieuxCouvent.com), a historic inn and restaurant located in a former convent, is a must. A family-friendly hotel option is Château Madelinot (HotelsAccents.com).
Visit seven of the eight islands by car—head to lobster capital Grande-Entrée for tasty rolls served at Halabolina. You’ll need to board a boat or zodiac to experience isolated Entry Island, where most of the 100 residents are of Scottish descent and earn their living as fishermen.
Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise. If active days amid the majesty of the Canadian Rockies’ snow-capped peaks and blue glacial lakes is your idea of vacation bliss, these scenic locales in Alberta make for a great road trip from Calgary. It’s all about wilderness recreation here, so pack your outdoor gear.
Do the five-hour drive to Jasper (Jasper.travel) first to enjoy hiking on mountain and canyon trails, lake and river kayaking, and wildlife-spotting (elk, bighorn sheep and bear) within Jasper National Park. Don’t miss Maligne Lake or views from the Jasper SkyTram (JasperSkyTram.com) to the top of 7,160-foot Whistler Mountain. Rent an alpine-style cabin or splurge on the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (Fairmont.com/jasper).
Work your way back along Icefields Parkway toward Banff and Lake Louise, with stops at the Columbia Icefield to ride onto the glacier in a massive-wheeled bus…and Peyto Lake to admire its surreally blue, wolf-shaped silhouette. Banff is more touristy than Jasper, but there’s plenty of outdoor activity—especially hikes up Sulphur Mountain and treks to Bow Glacier Falls and Sunshine Meadows. You can relax afterward in thermal pools at Banff Upper Hot Springs (HotSprings.ca/banff). Lake Louise is legendary and always super-crowded. Nearby Moraine Lake is equally stunning and slightly less crowded. Accommodation-wise, rental condos (Vrbo.com) are a popular and budget-friendly option.
Canada on a Cruise. Cruising offers unpack-once access to some of Canada’s most vibrant cities and postcard-worthy natural wonders. Three great options…
Summer and fall Canada and New England itineraries from New York and Boston call on Montreal and Quebec City in Quebec…Halifax and Sydney in Nova Scotia…St. John in New Brunswick…and other ports. The blend of French, Scottish, Irish and indigenous First Nations heritage suits a wide array of interests—from colonial history and culture in Old Montreal and Old Quebec to lively Acadian fiddle music and aromatic seafood boils in Nova Scotia. Natural wonders abound, too, including New Brunswick’s incredible Bay of Fundy (TourismNewBrunswick.ca/bay-fundy). Celebrity, Cunard, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean all offer Canada and New England cruises, often priced from under $1,000 per person.
On the West Coast, ships visit British Columbia’s Vancouver and Victoria from May to September on Alaska sailings as well as on Pacific Coastal itineraries that also call on San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, typically in spring and fall. Aside from stunning scenery and vibrant neighborhoods, food is a highlight—whether you’re in the mood for Pacific Northwest salmon and oysters, organic farm-to-fork dining with the freshest ingredients or mouth-watering casual fare dished up by internationally inspired food trucks, these cities deliver. Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean offer Alaska cruises from Vancouver…and Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean feature Pacific Coastal itineraries that visit Vancouver and Victoria. Fares often start at under $1,000 per person.
From the Midwest, Viking (Viking.com) is now sailing outdoor adventure-focused Great Lakes and Canada cruises on its luxurious new 378-guest expedition ship Viking Octantis, with onboard naturalist guides and a submarine for below-the-surface exploration. A choice of several itineraries visit Toronto, Niagara Falls, Thunder Bay, Windsor and the picturesque hamlets of Georgian Bay. Cruise fares start at $5,995 per person.